End-User Computing: What is it and how to manage the risks?

No two businesses are the same. It’s no wonder, then, that different enterprises have various, divergent needs to be tackled. In order to do that, companies often opt for simple solutions that enable them to create their own work environments which are able to fully address individual requirements. A popular choice for many firms to deal with specific issues is an end-user computing solution. But what are they? And should you consider using this option?

What is end-user computing?

Historically, end-user computing, also known as EUC, was a system through which applications are created directly by individuals in a business who would use it, rather than a separate IT or software development department. Enabling operations staff to develop their own applications means that EUC frees up specialists to focus on more complicated tasks, while democratizing the process of application-building and enabling enterprises to operate software that caters to their individual needs, enhancing overall productivity and efficiency. Perhaps the most common EUC platform is Microsoft Excel, but beyond spreadsheets, end-user computing applications are often employed in databases, queries, scripts, or output from reporting tools.

More recently, tools have been developed specifically to support EUC in a managed environment. Such systems provide a framework to enable application consistency, security, centralized access and data storage and other enterprise-centric requirements. A good example is enterprise-deployed low-code tools that enable non-IT to develop applications, but in a far more prescribed and managed manner compared with, for example, spreadsheets. EASA is primarily focused on the former flavor of EUC, where EUC applications lack any centralized management.

What are the risks of end-user computing?

While EUC can be a very useful option for many businesses, allowing them to avoid high expenses, time and energy spent on programmed applications, it still comes with its own risks.

These applications are often created outside of a fully managed, properly rigorous environment leading to a host of potential problems. These include lack of corporate visibility, difficulty of usage by those not familiar with them, insufficient documentation, poor or nonexistent audit trail, and, in some cases, not fully tested or validated performance.

If the EUC is Excel based, then further issues such as unsecured IP, unmanaged replication and version confusion, and propagation of errors might further diminish their usefulness. So, while EUC can provide high value to an organization, the resulting shortcomings can diminish or, in some cases, negate the overall benefit they bring.

All of these potential risks grow the more complex your EUC is. Using spreadsheets, for instance, can be an incredible way for businesses to keep and analyze information, but as we get used to them it’s easy to forget the many dangers that they may entail.

Another significant factor determining the level of risk involved with EUC is the purpose to which it is applied. For example, financial operations may require extreme diligence, meaning that errors can be far more hazardous for your business. Incorporating different systems, multiple rows, or even simply a lacking reviewing process can result in danger for you and your company.

As many of these tools are used to contain precious data, it is crucial that the risks are accounted for if your organization chooses to employ an EUC solution.

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What are the implications?

If EUC risks are not managed correctly, the consequences can be substantial. Unfortunately, these are not limited easily-fixable mistakes, but can also bring about tangible, monetary losses that every business should strive to avoid.

These include direct costs, such as loss in revenue as a result of input errors, as well as operational expenses if these blunders go unnoticed and continue in the long term. However, there are other types of financial damage that you should consider when handling EUCs.

For example, the fares for regulatory obligations can suddenly grow if you use these applications incorrectly. The operational processes that are required by law may be hiked up — for instance, through increased costs of audits. Failure to comply can also carry hefty fines, not to mention external audits and monitoring.

Finally, there are some indirect costs that should be noted. Brands require their reputations be spotless in today’s climate, and operational and financial incidents can tarnish this. This can impact your stock value, cause you to lose customers, and detrimentally affect business stakeholders. What’s more, EUC errors could leave you more vulnerable to fraud.

End-user computing risk management: How can EASA help?

The risks of using EUC can be extremely harmful to businesses. However, they also hold many benefits, be it personalization or ease of use. EASA can help you utilize your existing and future Microsoft Excel-based EUC solutions in a secure way that will maintain the advantages and evade the risks.

By converting your spreadsheet into a web app — including any macros and VBA you may be employing — EASA allows you to use your EUC program from any browser. This web application works with your Excel file as the engine behind it, drawing its functionality without exposing your IP or changing the spreadsheet itself. This eliminates version confusion, input errors and insufficient audit trails. EASA also enables you to securely share your app with any clients or stakeholders that may require access to it, not having to worry about breaches to the logic at the heart of it.

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